Tour Features Balboa Island Holiday Homes

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20th Annual Balboa Island Holiday Home Walking Tour homeowner participant Diana Conners’ rescue dog Dewey relaxes on a decorated daybed in Conners S. Bayfront home. — Photo by Sara Hall ©
20th Annual Balboa Island Holiday Home Walking Tour homeowner participant Diana Conners’ rescue dog Dewey relaxes on a decorated daybed in Conners S. Bayfront home.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

People can get a glimpse inside several Balboa Island homes decked out for the holidays during a popular community event next weekend.

The Balboa Island Improvement Association will host its 20th Annual Balboa Island Holiday Home Walking Tour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 11 (rain or shine).

Guests will get to peek inside coastal cottages, remodeled modern homes, and island adobes, old, classic residences, and more. In addition to the impressive architecture, attendees will enjoy the various styles of holiday decorations featured in each of the houses.

The tour will feature nine houses, each will its own unique charm and style.

Either the strong start or the grand finale of the tour, depending on which direction the attendee takes, will be Diana Conners’ home on S. Bayfront.

“It’s a lot of fun… I’m excited,” Conners said. “It puts everybody in the (holiday) spirit.”

A few highlights in Conner’s lovely, elegant, yet simple holiday décor include: A “forest” of three artificial trees in the living room; a smaller, but denser forest among the well-designed table setting; a day bed with holiday throw pillows and blankets with artwork of her four children’s hands as Christmas wreaths hung above it; and, to top it all off, an upper deck with a view of the harbor and bordered by poinsettias.

The unique fireplace in Diana Conners’ home, which will be featured in the holiday home tour. — Photo by Sara Hall ©
The unique fireplace in Diana Conners’ home, which will be featured in the holiday home tour.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

The “wow” piece of design is a fireplace that Conners completely covered in real shells and topped with a piece of driftwood from a California lake as the tilted mantle.

Guests will hear personal stories with a number of pieces of décor, including a meaningful stained glass window in the second story bathroom of Conner’s home. The window, which was originally part of the door in the Balboa Island home of her mother, Sylvia Davidson, who passed a few years ago.

The window depicts a dolphin leaping out of the water as bubbles line the waves. Conner’s father was buried at sea and an old saying claims that the sailor will come back as a dolphin, Conners explained. The bubbles represent Conners and her siblings, and all of their children.

She started pulling decorations out just before Thanksgiving this year. She goes room by room and doesn’t usually know her overall theme of the entire house until she starts putting it all together.

“This year it turned out to be trees,” she said.

She usually decorates for the holidays, but she added more for the tour this year. This is her first year participating in the tour.

“It’s special,” for the 20th anniversary, said Tom Popplewell, chair of the BIIA’s tour committee.

The tour was started by women of the Balboa Island beautification committee, formed by the BIIA, explained Kristine Taft, BIIA board member and the head docent for Conner’s home. The purpose was, and still is, to raise money for the beautification of the island.

It’s also the most significant fundraiser the Association holds all year, Popplewell said. Last year they raised about $15,000. They hope to about double that this year, he added.

(left to right) 20th Annual Balboa Island Holiday Home Walking Tour homeowner participant Diana Conners (holding her dog, Dewey), tour docent and Balboa Island Improvement Association board member Kristine Taft, and tour chair and BIIA board member Tom Popplewell, pose for a photo in Conner’s living room. — Photo by Sara Hall ©
(left to right) 20th Annual Balboa Island Holiday Home Walking Tour homeowner participant Diana Conners (holding her dog, Dewey), tour docent and Balboa Island Improvement Association board member Kristine Taft, and tour chair and BIIA board member Tom Popplewell, pose for a photo in Conner’s living room.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

“It’s a big undertaking,” Taft said.

The committee starts planning around February and Popplewell starts finding willing homeowners in May.

It takes some generous residents to allow about 800 to 1,000 people into their homes, Popplewell said.

Organizers hope the tour will ignite the holiday spirit in guests touring the homes.

Most people enjoy hoe tours to admire the architecture and designs, Taft explained. The holiday decorations are the “icing on the cake,” she said.

It’s a fun way to peek inside their neighbor’s homes and share their own, Conners added.

“It’s a ‘looky loo’ day,” she said.

The event will likely be enjoyable for all senses, not just the incredible sights each guest will see. The kick-off event at the museum will include refreshments, music – possibly including a mobile live band – will entertain attendees at each stop, fresh flowers and pine trees will create an aroma to help set the scene, and guests will “feel” the holiday spirit in every home.

Organizers will also be raffling off a painting of one of the homes on the tour (featured on the poster for the event) created by Popplewell

There are a few ground rules for the tour, including: The ticket must be presented at each home for admittance, no high heels, no food or drink, no pets, and no photography in any of the homes.

It’s also meant to be a walking tour, Popplewell emphasized. It’s between one and two miles total, he added. That way people can enjoy the island and stop at the stores during the event.

There is a big sense of community on Balboa Island and the tour is a good example of that.

“The BIIA is run by volunteers whose main purpose is to ensure this island paradise stays like it is,” Popplewell said. “To create that sense of community and preserve it.”

That sense of community helps create the special holiday spirit shared on the island, all three agreed. The tour allows the participating homeowners to share that with others. It showcases the island living style that is unique to Balboa Island.

“We want to share our island,” Conners said. “We love it, how could you not want to share it?”

For more information, visit balboaislandNB.org/new-events/hometour.

Tickets are $35 each and are available online and at a few stores: Island Home, Balboa Island Museum and The Persimmon Tree, all located on Marine Avenue on Balboa Island.

Will call tickets will be available for pick up at Balboa Island Museum at 10 a.m. on the day of the tour.

The table setting in Diana Conners’ home, which will be featured in the holiday home tour. — Photo by Sara Hall ©
The table setting in Diana Conners’ home, which will be featured in the holiday home tour.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©
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